COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Three days later the scars from Saturday’s protests in the Vista are still healing.
Driving down Gervais St and the surrounding side streets, people can still see boarded-up windows and workers cleaning. However, to most stores and restaurant’s dismay, business is still slow.
On Lincoln St, art gallery owner Wim Roef has wooden planks on his shop doors with a sign that reads “open.” His store wasn’t looted or broken into he said, but he still boarded up after Saturday’s once peaceful protests turned violent. Roef said he was outside his store Saturday night working to put out the fires inside the building adjacent to his. He says he even helped firefighters board up his neighbor's building, which is currently being rented out and was nearly empty when it was broken into and set on fire.
“If one of these buildings lights up the whole block goes,” Roef said as he explained one of the main reasons he jumped to action while the violent protests were still happening.
But despite his shop being saved from violence and looting, Roef's business has taken a hit. “I’m open, no one coming in of course you can see there is not a whole lot of business on the streets,” Roef added.
Across the street, Blue Marlin’s private dining room windows were repaired Tuesday morning, and the full restaurant is also open.
But, it’s not business as usual. Restaurants in South Carolina is still being advised by Gov. Henry McMaster and his team to operate below capacity, keep tables six feet apart, and sanitize regularly.
Vista Guild Executive Director Abby Naas said seeing the images of her member’s businesses damaged was especially hard to watch as most of them were only able to open recently due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It was hard to come out and speak to our business owners who are trying to rebuild and already had struggled for months now to try and get back on their feet and are now dealing with further disaster,” Naas said.
Naas stressed that the vast majority of businesses are open, but still facing some uncertainty.
“There are still a lot of questions that are going into this for people, everyone is still waiting to hear from their insurance company,” she said. “In addition, with hearing about the curfew at night, you sit up and wonder, ‘did something happen…do I immediately check the news to find out,’” Naas added.
She says business owners have been working together to rebuild, some people have volunteered to clean up, the guild was able to have the graffiti removed, but now they just need the community to back.
“We have to move forward together and hope that everything is still safe. And that’s what these businesses need...is for you to continue to come out because they are still doing all they can do,” she said.